Peralta – tiger-herons, vultures and caracaras

It’s been a year since John and Milena Beer introduced me to the little hamlet of Peralta on the Río Reventazón. John and I revisited the spot this week, thinking to walk uphill from the giant footbridge over the river as far as La Flor de Tres Equis. That walk turns out to be unproductive in terms of bird-watching since it has little more than just a few patches of woodland, most of it low down next to the river. The steep path begins at the point from where John took the following photograph. The village of Peralta lies just beyond where the bridge seems to disappear into the trees.

Peralta (112)

Footbridge at Peralta over the Río Reventazón, leading to La Flor de Tres Equis

Before walking from the village to the bridge we searched the fields and woodland at Peralta looking for Snowy Cotinga and Red-winged Blackbird, two species that John had found there on a previous visit. We had no luck with the target species, but we had excellent views of a Yellow-headed Caracara (Milvago chimachima) that was perched atop an indolent cow:

Caracara, Yellow-headed, Peralta (1)

Adult Yellow-headed Caracara, a species that has now extended its range from the Pacific side via the Central Valley.

The bridge itself is an excellent spot from which to look for several interesting aquatic species. A Fasciated Tiger-Heron (Tigrisoma fasciatum) stayed on the tree-lined bank for almost an hour at the same spot, peering intently into the rushing river. It seemed impossible that it could see anything at all in such turbulent water.

Peralta (74)

View down the Río Reventazón; photo by John Beer

Here’s the ultra-patient Fasciated Tiger-Heron, a species that prefers fast-flowing rocky rivers:

Heron, Tiger, Fasciated, Peralta

Adult Fasciated Tiger-Heron on the Reventazón

The Peralta area has large numbers of vultures, usually the omnipresent Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) and Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura).

Vulture, Turkey (CATIE)

Turkey Vulture spreads his impressive wings at CATIE in Turrialba; file photo by John Beer

One of the best finds on this day, however, was a single King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa) flying among them at fairly low height over the river. Here, in a file photo taken not much lower down at Siquirres, is the face that didn’t launch a thousand ships:

Vulture, King, El Coco, Siquirres (3)

Isn’t she pretty? King Vulture perched at El Coco de Siquirres; photo by John Beer

It’s a good idea always to check out soaring vultures in case you find a King Vulture among them. John took the following shot at Peralta on another occasion:

Vulture, King (Peralta, soaring) (1)

Just look up! Soaring King Vulture is unmistakeable.

The Río Reventazón yielded its usual crop of swallows (5 different species, including Mangrove Swallow (Tachycineta albilinea), cormorants, kingfishers and herons, but a mere trickle of a stream in the very centre of Peralta gave terrific close-up views of some of the best birds of the day: Green Ibis (Mesembrinibis cayennensis) and Bare-throated Tiger-Heron (Tigrisoma mexicanum), together with Snowy Egret (Egretta thula), Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulia) and Great Egret (Ardea alba), all pretty much in the same tree! These were all individual birds with the exception of the ibis, of which we counted 8.

The mexicanum tiger-heron prefers quieter waters in the lowlands, and today’s bird was a beautiful adult:

Heron, Tiger-, Bare-throated, Peralta (1)

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron at Peralta; photo by John Beer

Both mexicanum and fasciatum have yellow on the base of the lower mandible, but the Bare-throated has yellow on its featherless throat too.

Rain ended our day and persuaded us to picnic on the river bank: John served great sandwiches again and we accompanied them with beer from the Beer cooler! This is the life!

You can find more beautiful photographs and a full list of the day’s species at:

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